Fujitsu’s vibrating hair clip could help deaf people sense sound

The latest wearable tech from Fujitsu is the Ontenna: a device that would allow deaf people to sense sounds via haptic feedback. 

Likely to go into production later this year, this affordable hair clip will provide those who can’t hear a sense of the audial world around them. The company have stated that around 1,000 units will be made as part of an extended trial and that two versions have been produced – a slightly larger version that connects to Bluetooth and a smaller version that does not.

If a song is playing, for example, the Ontenna will vibrate to mimic the sound of the music or if a phone or doorbell rings, it will vibrate to alert the wearer. The sensor has 256 different levels of feedback and Futjitsu have claimed that deaf people can use this device as a way to interact with the world around them.

During early tests of this technology, deaf people said that a device in their hand felt “too noisy”, attaching it to clothes was “too quiet” but that clipping the device to your hair felt like a “good interface”. A prototype of the device was shown in 2016 but it first started as a university research project by the current Fujitsu user interface designer Tatuya Honda. At present, the device can only react to the rhythm and loudness of a sound but the company are hoping to develop this so that it represents the tone and timbre of audio.

The company is hoping that the Ontenna can be manufactured for less than the current cost of a hearing aid and although no price has currently been announced, it is said to be less than $100.

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